Controversy has followed Joey Barton around wherever he has gone in his 10 year career so far but could that all be coming to an end. Many off the off-field problems have been well documented and there was a time where Barton was one of the most despised footballers in the English game, but things may finally have changed.
It appears that many people, including myself, are slowly warming to the QPR midfielder, who speaks his mind and plays with his heart on his sleeve week-in-week-out, something that is missing from many modern day players. A big fan of Twitter, Barton communicates with his fans and always makes his opinions heard, something that gets him in trouble with the FA but makes him an interesting person to listen to.
Off the field problems have tarnished Barton’s reputation, whether it be stubbing a cigar out on a youth team players face, assaulting former team mate Ousmane Dabo on the training field at Manchester City or serving 77 days imprisonment for a fight outside a Liverpool night club, that is a difficult position for anyone to come back from, especially a Premier League footballer who is in the spotlight 27/7.
Without condoning anything that may have happened over the years, Barton has come back from the incidents with dignity and responsibility. After initially not getting on with Geordie legend Alan Shearer, Barton enjoyed three years at Newcastle, where he was able to focus on football and show his talents on the pitch.
Barton played a big part in pushing Newcastle into the Premier League and earning a mid table finish the following year with Barton and team mate Kevin Nolan becoming two of the best English midfielders on form. However, more outspoken comments and arguments with management at Newcastle meant Barton was released on a free this summer. With plenty of clubs wanting Barton, including Arsenal, Everton and West Ham, Barton signed a four-year-deal with QPR and has become club captain immediately.
Since joining QPR, Barton has been on fine form, continuing where he left off last season at St James Park. The free signing has been at the heart of everything good at Loftus Road and is one of the top midfielders in the country at the moment. Many respectable people in football even feel that Barton is deserving of an England call up but with his history and comments made on the England set up, it is extremely unlikely that Barton will be on Fabio Capello’s mind come May.
A new England manager will be installed after the Euro’s next year and that may be a chance for Barton to break into the national team if he can stay on form and out of trouble why should he not be looked at as a possible selection candidate.
Whether he gets his chance or not for England, it is refreshing to have a personality in modern day football that is not afraid to say what he feels and is always worth a listen to when he speaks. Comedy conversations on Twitter with wannabe celebrities have caused many people to change their outlook on Barton and more of the same would be much appreciated in the game.
The days of Paolo Di Canio and Eric Cantona even Robbie Savage entertaining the crowd on and off the pitch are gone and now Barton has very little help in showing supporters a more light hearted view of the game. Mario Balotelli has also brought with him similar traits. He is interesting to listen to and sees the lighter side of football. It is far too common nowadays for players to be told what they can and cant say by the powers that be, and it should not be that way. Barton and Balotelli should be praised for their free attitudes and communication with the supporters.
It has been a good four years for Barton who has stayed out of trouble off the field and has won many fans on it, with whole hearted performances and passion that many supporters love to see.
Only time will tell is Barton can keep himself away from off the field incidents, but the FA have now given him the task of teaching young, aspiring footballers how to use technology such as Twitter correctly. It appears that the 29-year-old is hitting his prime and I believe, if he can focus on football, he can be one of the top midfielders in the country and a player that every team would be happy to take on in their squad, along with becoming an interesting player to listen to and his opinions will continue to be refreshing and honest.
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